A Level Walking Trail

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The weather is about to change and the pressure is on to make the most of the sun while it lasts, hence I decide to Go for a Walk. There are no end of trails hairpin bending through the Sierra de Cadiz; from my door I can walk for hours in any direction. I’ll probably have to once the rains start and the gullies in the track get more entrenched and the car’s sump and wheels get shredded again.

However, as well as the unmarked open rambles along rivers and lanes, and the bonafide marked trails through the Sierra de Grazalema National Park, there’s a 36km Greenway nearby, a Via Verde, that follows the course of a disused railway from nearby Puerto Serrano to Olvera.

There are more than 90 Via Verdes across Spain covering 1,900 km of vehicle-free – and relatively flat – cycling, riding, and walking routes. All are well-signposted and maintained thanks to an  annual injection of cash, and they vary in length from a couple of kilometres to 190km.

The Puerto Serrano – Olvera route is the only Via Verde in Cádiz, and quite possibly the only trail without a climb so steep it makes you want to heave. I could have done it on a bike (I don’t have one, you can rent them), but I walked, and stopped to admire the views and take pictures along the way. As a result, I got to the not-quite-halfway point, La Estación de Coripe, too late to continue and reach Olvera before dark. What a shame.

In truth, the old station house, now an immaculate bar, and restaurant with yellow trim surrounded by crags and forest and birdsong seemed like a good place to stop. I had one nice cold beer, then another, then some rollitos de calabacín, queso y jamón. Maria and Eugenio took over the place a year ago, and the combination of excellent home-cooking and convivial hosting has made it a popular spot. There are six spotless and calm rooms, half looking out across the valley, half up to the sierra. If I hadn’t been invited to a birthday party the following day, I’d have maybe stayed and set off early the following morning to complete the route. The current plan is to wait until a bright crisp December Sunday and start out from Olvera in order to get here in time for a restorative lunch.

Obviously not everyone walks or cycles to this point; there’s road access to this and six other points along the way. Walkers be warned, though: it may be flat and easy but it’s still pretty isolated and you can walk a far while without seeing another soul even on a sunny day (unless it’s national via verde day, the second Sunday in May) so go prepared. Also, if you have a tunnel phobia, forget it: there are many, the longest (a cool treat on this, a hot day) just under 1km. Nice views over the Guadalete river, and across olivars and asparagus fields, as well as the craggy sierra. I also got to take a long, hard look at a gem of a house perched above the Via Verde which we once considered buying but, surprise, surprise, couldn’t afford.

To be honest, the views from the farm are just as beautiful, and the walks I can take more varied., but anyone with older or younger companions looking for a level trail should take advantage of this one. The Estación de Puerto Serrano, signposted to the left as you enter the village is the foundation HQ for the Vía Verde de la Sierra. Like Coripe and Olvera, it is also a bar-restaurant with accommodation. There’s information about the route, history and wildlife (birds) there and at www.fundacionviaverdedelasierra.com.

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